March 21, 2019
Imagine yourself being given a small piece of clay. The clay is a smooth small square freshly sliced from a larger chunk of clay. It feels cool and damp resting on your palm. The person who gave you the clay invites you to begin molding the clay. They also invite you to think about what you carry in your heart and ask you to shape the clay into a form that represents those thoughts.
As you think, “What do I carry with me today?” your hands begin moving the clay, pressing and squeezing between your palms and shaping and smoothing with your fingertips.
After some time, the person who gave you the clay asks you to pause and look up. When you lift your gaze from your lump of clay, you see a room full of people each holding their own piece of that same clay. Not one person’s creation is exactly like the other. One piece is stretched into a bent, crooked tree. Another rolled into a sphere representing an eye. And every one after that looked nothing like the original slab of clay they were given.
I don’t have to imagine what my clay square would turn into because I was able to do this activity at an arts ministry workshop last month. The Carlisle Presbytery hosted a Pastor-Artist, Lisle Gwynn-Garrity, who has found her calling in helping congregations embrace their creativity. You may have seen her painting on display outside Fellowship Hall which was done as a performance painting during the Presbytery worship service. Lisle’s painting was inspiring, however her workshop was invigorating.
During the morning workshop, we went from molding clay individually to drawing collaboratively as a small group, then to discussing artworks as a large group. Each activity focusing on the same parable from Luke 13 of the fig tree that bears no fruit. Lisle’s afternoon workshop invited us to create large Lenten banners that would be be displayed at Mechanicsburg Presbyterian Church and Second Presbyterian Church (Carlisle), then rotated around to other local Presbyterian churches.
We split into two large groups and each group began to exchange ideas for their banners. After two hours of talking, painting, cutting, and drawing, both groups had completed their creations. Again, each creation looked nothing like the other. One banner was full of vibrant color, while the other had a muted palette of blues and purples. One had hands being lifted up, while the other had a dark purple path leading to a silhouette of Jerusalem.
God created us in His image, yet we all are unique creations. “But now, O Lord, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.” Isaiah 64:8. We are the work of His own hands, pushing and squeezing and smoothing us into the form we are today. His work never ends and His creation is never complete until we meet with our Creator in Heaven.
I would like to extend a thank you to Derry Church and Carlisle Presbytery for offering the opportunity to learn and experience arts ministry in a new way. I believe God is calling the church to use and express their creativity to proclaim God's word, share God's love, and practice God's justice. That is why M.E. Steelman and I began an arts ministry here at Derry, called Art in the Grove. Our hope is to bring people closer to God and one another through the creative process.
For those of you who doubt you are creative, remember we are made by the Ultimate Creator, in His image, to do his work. As Lisle says, “Creativity is just the way things travel from the head to the heart to the hand.”